It is not surprising that art finds a new way of viewing the landscape, painting and depicting something that has hardly been seen.

As artist Evert Schut writes on his blog: "Google Earth has made it possible for anyone with a computer and the Internet to roam the Earth with a bird's eye - or maybe God's eye - view."

What he does is surf Google Earth, and translate what nobody could ever see into pure art.

The Russian Tundra from Google Earth was for him a huge new source of inspiration. He has produced 'Angry Tundra', 'Lonely at the top', 'Down to the sea', and many other works.

However not everyone thinks of Google Earth as an inspiration for art. For some, it stirs up controversy as it is an invasion of privacy.

Google Earth as new means of education

But on the positive side, for those who enjoy travelling and exploring, the new version of Google Earth - with new historical images and underwater viewing features - is as good as it gets.

Google Earth's maps and satellite images are being efficiently used as a means of education - a vehicle for the virtual school outing.

For teachers and students alike, Google's newest application is the perfect "school bus" to take students on a virtual field trip to all the places they want to go.

Of course, traditional field trips offer the kind of hands-on experience that no virtual field trip can or should replace.

However, virtual field trips can take teachers and students far beyond their local communities, countries or hemispheres - all without transportation, permission slips or spending a lot of time and money.

No limit to imagination and destination

Another great type of virtual field trip is one that supplements a book which students read in class.

For example, 'Google Lit Trips' offers Google Earth content for a wide range of literature.

Students reading The Grapes of Wrath can load the tour and travel with the Joad family across the United States during the Great Depression.

There is also 'Google Sky' where students can learn about astronomy while zooming around the universe.

Education 2.0 in the future

You don't need to be a huge fan of this so-called 'Google stuff' to appreciate what this can mean for the future of education.

It is undeniable that these applications are replacing traditional means of schooling.

Of course, getting out of the classroom to explore is an invaluable experience and makes the various elements students are learning about literally come to life.

...But is it still necessary?

"I've already been to lots of interesting places I needed to go for study with Google Earth," says UCL PhD student, Mr. Baek, who studies Architecture and Urban Planning. "Taking a field trip all over the world is my ideal dream, but it's really not necessary now."

Virtual field trips not only enable students to visit places they might normally never go, but also they are able to go to the most remote areas that few humans have ever seen.

Google has taken exploration to the next level. But it is only when combining the virtual means with the traditional means of exploring that the human experience is truly revolutionised.

 

Photo by Bo Kyung Park
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Google Earth's virtual school bus

By Bo Kyung Park